Monday, 5 March 2012

The Frozen Moment: Part 1

So here it is. The first chapter (+ prologue) of the "novel" I wrote last November, during "NaNoWriMo". I've been editing and improving on the very rough, original draft, so the version you see here will be the version I have polished as much as I can (which could go either way, to be honest).

Another fun fact; I haven't actually finished the novel yet. I stopped just after 50k (the total required to 'win' NaNoWriMO), and haven't started back up. But you can bet I'm going to go ahead and get it finished, now that I'm slowly putting the chapters online.

I'd be delighted to hear your thoughts on it, good or bad, so long as it's constructive. "It's shit lol" won't fly. 

(inb4 "It's shit lol").

Also, Creative Commons apply yada yada yada; this is my work, don't steal it, it's my Intellectual property. If you do, things will happen. Bad things).

I hope you enjoy!


The Frozen Moment
A NaNoWriMo Accident; by Peter Stewart


                                The Audience Chamber was still.

A large, circular, domed room, the chamber was filled with people. Some were pointing, some were shouting, others were running and fighting and dying. All of them were motionless and silent.


The room was a tableau of chaos. Those who were sitting down were trying to stand up. Those who were pointing were screaming. Those who were shouting were wide-eyed, afraid. And all of them were still, held in place. Dozens of men and women halted in-situ, stuck between steps, fear forever etched onto their faces.

In the centre of the auditorium, a battle was unmoving, paused at its peak. Men with swords and spears were thrusting, stabbing and blocking the weapons of those attacking them--their enemies. Some had not been so lucky, and their faces were the halted, haunting images of death; expressions of agony, shock and disappointment wrought on their features as they were indiscriminately slain.

From their opened, unmoving wounds, gushes of dark, crimson blood had erupted and been suspended in mid-air. Bone and sinew and flesh hung motionless in the air, trailing streamers of solid state caught in time.

Above this macabre portrait, a large portion of the domed roof had collapsed. Stone and glass and mortar had caved inwards and fallen arbitrarily. Several large chunks of masonry lay strewn across the chaotic scene below; some had fallen on patches of empty ground, whilst others had claimed those unfortunate enough to have been in their path, their broken twisted limbs held forever as a testament to the scene.

Much like the blood, other pieces of the collapsing ceiling had frozen during their descents. Large boulders were seized in the space, as were the multitude of smaller, cascading rocks and pebbles. A thick cloud of dust had erupted with the roof's implosion and hung above the scene like the descending swarm of some angry plague.

Beyond the roof, hanging in the sky, was the source of the destruction. The airship floated loftily in the near distance, the ripple of explosions still blossoming across its broadside, frozen like everything else, a still shot of destruction. Bunches of cannon shot loomed ominously between the vessel and the auditorium, as if waiting for the perfect moment to descend.

At the centre of this portrait of madness, in the high seat at the back of the Chamber, a solemn figure sat. He wore sharp, elegant clothing befitting of a man of power; an elaborately decorated breastplate covered his upper body, a deep burgundy half-cape draped over the right shoulder, clasped to the breastplate by a brooch in the style of a sword, stabbing through the material.

Unlike the rest of the crazed, terrified people around him, his face was a passive, still mask. His eyes gazed at something just out of sight, oblivious to any one point of the chaos around him; it didn't seem to be reaching him. His pupils, however, were tiny black specks in a deep blue ocean; whatever this man was seeing, he feared it.

Like the rest of the madness around him, he was a statue; an image locked in stasis. His power, his dress, his feelings were all stilled, irrelevant and ceased. Whatever he had hoped to achieve was stuck; his aspirations were lost. This maddening scene of chaos around him was deafeningly silent, a void of sound trapped within this bubble of timelessness.

And then, with a desperate rushing of air, he moved.



                                The balustrade of the balcony was cold when Lucé placed her hands upon it and looked out over Paceguard. In the crisp morning air, the dense smog that covered the city so many hundreds of feet below looked almost like nothing more than an early mist, settled over the city whilst it slept.

Would that it were so, she thought, gripping the steel bar tighter.

The balustrade was always cold in the mornings, even in Summer. Her balcony faced away from the rising sun, so it was the middle of the day before the first trails of sunlight began to warm her side of the Viscount's Tower. The long dawn shadow of the tower stretched out before her, lying contented against the city below it. It would slowly wake, receding inch by inch before stretching itself out once again on the other side of the city.

Lucé shivered as a crisp winter breeze whisked around the heights and through her thin bedclothes, yet she remained outside, gazing at the slowly rousing city. Below the smog, the first echoes of awakening began, breaking the fragile morning silence. Her eyes darted to the source of every sound she heard, squinting desperately, as if by narrowing her vision she could penetrate the opaqueness. As ever, though, it was no use. All she had was sounds to go by as the city below--her city--rose to face another day.

"Madame?" came an inquiring voice from behind her, within her bedchamber. It was a warm voice, but it frustrated her nevertheless. "You mustn't be out here so early, it's always so cold this side of the tower, especially in Winter".

"It's quite alright, Suse, I'll be fine for another minute or more. I'm just enjoying the city". Go away, woman. "See to my breakfast, would you? I'll be along shortly. I'll have the usual".

Suse hesitated a moment, concern on her face, before she nodded, backed away from the window and headed out of the bedchamber. At the door, she paused a moment again, muttered something to somebody outside, then busied herself with Lucé's request.

Lucé took a deep breath in through her nose. The morning air was cold, as Suse had said; it burned its way through her nostrils and down into her lungs. She shivered again, but savoured the sensation of the chilled air within her. It was refreshing, like a splash of cold water in the face. She couldn't stay here forever, she knew that, but she would linger as long as she could.

"My lady, that's enough gazing for one morning". Another voice. This one cold, clipped; It brooked no argument. "Time to come back inside and prepare for the day".

Lucé turned, but kept one hand on the railing, the cold a sharp tether. "Just a while longer, Traech. You know I love these mornings. The city is so beautiful"

Traech frowned. He was a tall man, and thin. He was dressed entirely in black; formal, as suited his office. His face was cast seriously, stern, but it held the potential to be kinder. "You can barely see the city, my lady, and there is nothing to gaze on past the walls. This is idle folly. Dare I say, procrastination. Your father expects you to be prepared for a morning's officiating with him today and instead I find you wasting time?"

"What is time, Traech, if not to be wasted?"

He snorted. "A precious thing, Lady Lucé. One you understand so little of, it seems. Am I to report to your father that this is how you are frittering the responsibilities of state?"

She sighed. There was no arguing, she had lost. She let go of the balustrade and began back into her bedroom. "Fine", she huffed, deliberately exaggerating, "but it simply won't do for me to be interrupted like this. Father best be prepared for me at my worst today".

Traech smiled behind her back. "As ever, my lady".


Viscount Armén was not a man who enjoyed being kept waiting. The one thing he held precious beyond everything else was time, and that was something he was certain everybody else held dear as well. It baffled him, then, that some people chose to dawdle with their arrangements so much.

The Viscount had more patience for his daughter than most, admittedly, but at the same time he though she, of all people, should understand the value of the time she took for granted. Instead, he sat, waiting, in the high seat in the Chamber of the Senate--bereft of any Senators. The seat next to him, reserved for his daughter, was empty when it shouldn't be. The room was silent. Outside the hall, the regional Senators waited for their weekly opportunity to address the Viscount directly, explain their grievances and requests, and await his official decree on the matter.

The Viscount loved the notion of this democracy, but did so despise having to sit through their wearisome complaints and squabbles. Having his daughter accompany him--or perhaps, suffer with him--during his official business was the only thing that kept him going through it.

Finally, twenty minutes later than they had agreed, the side door to the to the chamber opened, and his daughter, Baroness Lucé stepped through, the look on her face when she saw her father a beaming picture of insolence. Nothing I say can harm her, Armén thought. Or rather, I can't bring myself to say anything that can harm her. His Chief Steward, Traech, stepped through the door after Lucé, flanking her. He wore his usual impassive mask of stern day-to-day business upon his face. On meeting the Viscounts gaze, he gave an insignificant shrug and bowed his head.

"Sweet child", Armén began, as stern as he dared, "I asked for you twenty minutes past. The Senators will not like being kept waiting".

His daughter, to her credit, at least tried to look contrite. "They will not like it even more when you say no to their requests, Father. Besides, you know how I enjoy looking out of the window of a morning. The city is so beautiful".

"The City so-- Lucé, the City is invisible from up here; a blanket of smog from wall to wall. What is so beautiful about looking down at nothing?"

She laughed. "You don't understand, Father. Nobody ever understands. You don't look with just your eyes. There are things beneath the smog, I can hear them, and when I hear them I see them. Not with my eyes, but I see them all the same. Little ideas in my head".

Armén smiled. He had lost again. "As you say, child. Come, take your seat. The day's business is to begin. The sooner we start, the sooner we can be done".

With a sigh, Lucé crossed the distance to her seat and, with another--deliberate--sigh, lowered herself into it. Besides her, the Viscount patted her head with a gloved hand, then looked up to his steward, who had moved to the Chamber's large, ornate central doors.

"Traech, show them in would you? Let's get this over with".

"As you say, my Lord".

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